Paul Ryan’s family time

There is a meme going around to the effect that Paul Ryan, the candidate for Speaker of the House, is demanding family time as a condition of taking the job, while meanwhile he opposes mandatory paid family leave for other workers. This is precisely the kind of “hypocrisy attack” that I hate, and I think it is a particularly vivid illustration of the weakness of the genre.

First off, it is not actually hypocritical for Paul Ryan to individually attempt to negotiate family time into his contract while opposing a universal requirement for employers to offer family leave. Presumably he would encourage everyone to negotiate such concessions — individually.

Even worse than the misdiagnosis of hypocrisy is the missed opportunity to highlight the real problem with Paul Ryan’s position. He is, for better or worse, viewed as being uniquely qualified for an important job, which gives him considerable negotiating leverage. The problem isn’t that he’s using that leverage — the problem is that his worldview assumes that his situation is the norm for all workers. In reality, the vast majority of jobs are offered on a take-it-or-leave-it basis, and most don’t even include an explicit contract. Workers have no leverage in such situations, and hence the state needs to step in to make sure that they have protections and benefits that they could never negotiate individually. This could also serve as a teachable moment for the necessity of unions.

Or, you know, we could mock Paul Ryan for asking for something everyone wants and should have.

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